Welcome to my blog

Welcome to The Literary Pig's blog - a safe haven for all those afflicted with
the unbearable urge to write.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

BBC National Short Story Award shortlist

The 5 shortlisted stories for the BBC National Short Story Award have been announced. Sadly, they didn’t contact the Indoor Writer about her entry, but not unsurprising as the competition is tough - they probably received thousands of entries for the £15,000 prize. The top 5 writers are all professional and some are pretty well-known names, for example Lionel Shriver wrote the bestselling novel ‘We need to talk about Kevin’. Interestingly, the 2013 shortlist is all women... You can listen (or download) the 5 shortlisted stories, see links below, which have been broadcast all week on Radio 4 (3.30pm).

Mrs Fox by Sarah Hall
A sensual fantasy where a husband lives through the amazing transformation of his wife. Weird and compelling. Some of its hypnotic power may have been lost with a male narrator.

Barmouth by Lisa Bower
A tale of family seaside holidays, to which we all probably can relate. Have to admit I drifted off and didn't follow this one too well...

Prepositions by Lionel Shriver
A brave story from a US born writer where a New York widow, who's husband died 'on' 9/11, writes to a friend who lost her husband 'in' 9/11. Short in length, but powerful in its simplicity.

Notes from the house spirits by Lucy Wood
Unusually told in third person plural ie. 'we' and 'us', which works for the subject and theme. A gentle and engaging tale, again very hypnotic listening.

We are watching something terrible happening by Lavinia Greenlaw
A contemporary story weaving the science of meteorites, a civil war and a woman's thoughts on her disintegrating marriage. I had to concentrate to stay with this one, possibly easier to read.

I'm already a fan of Lucy Wood, her debut short story collection is 'Diving Belles', so really enjoyed her story which comes from this collection of Cornish folk tales. But the story that has lingered longest in my thoughts is 'Mrs Fox', so I'm plumping for this as my favourite and top tip for the prize.

All of the above stories work well read aloud but I do wonder if the attention would still be held on the page. Leading to the question: should a short story meet the demands of a reader or listener or both? What do you think?

Saturday, 21 September 2013

A terrific tool for writers

Wendy Clarke has updated her terrific tool for writers the Story Timeline, click here to learn about (and download) the updated version, which now includes a date of birth calculator. I'm dreadful at trying to calculate ages etc so this looks incredibly useful.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Fancy some flash?

The results of the Northampton Literature Group Flash Fiction Competition (first time running this year) are now up. You can read all the winners here. Oh and guess who came third? You can read the Indoor Writer's flash story 'Bindweed' here (I do worry about what goes on inside her head ...)

Keep writing ...

Monday, 16 September 2013

Where and who would you visit in time?

Here's a 'what if' question for you, if you could travel anywhere in time then where would you pick and who would you choose to meet? After spending Saturday ambling round the beautiful city of Bath in the midst of the Jane Austen Festival then perhaps you can guess my choice ... I'd pop back to Regency England to chat with Jane herself, and politely ask for a private reading of 'Pride and Prejudice'.

Incidentally the Bath Jane Austen Festival is running all week. At the weekend the city centre was dotted with colourful P&P wannabes, all looking as if they had just stepped off a TV set - the Georgian costumes were simply gorgeous. Sadly, we didn't spot a Mr Darcy look-a-like but did catch one lady, complete with pale blue dress and matching bonnet, taking a fag break outside a pub. WRONG on so many levels!

If are you near Bath this week then Jane Austen is making a daily appearance at the central library (The Podium above Waitrose) from 2pm every afternoon, where she will be reading from 'Pride and Prejudice'. Hmm ... so I don't need a time machine after all ...

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

New Moon Rising - Anu Gupta

I’m really pleased to welcome Anuradha Gupta to the blog today. The Indoor Writer first met Anu at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer school in 2012 and again this August. This year Anu was selling her
own book of poetry in the Swanwick Book Room. ‘New Moon Rising’ is such a beautiful creation that I wanted to share it here and also let Anu tell you how it came into being. Anu should be very proud of her achievement as ‘New Moon Rising’ clearly has been crafted with. Throughout the poems are illustrated with Anu’s own paintings and artwork. I personally found this read as one long prose poem and was very accessible. It is a book to revisit at any season of the year and one I will cherish.

Over to Anu:
A little bit about my writing career....
I began my writing career as a copywriter in India. After very exciting two years the manic pace of the advertising scene in India got to me and as I looking for a change an opportunity came up for a trainee writer at Voyage, India's foremost travel magazine. It was a dream come true. Ever since I was little there were only two things I wanted to do. Write and travel! 
Since then I have been a travel writer. Although we moved away from India some years ago and I had to give up my job at Voyage I continued to freelance as one. My articles have appeared in magazines and newspapers and travel websites.
New Moon Rising was my first attempt at poetry, art and publishing.

Q.   Anu, can you tell me more about the inspiration behind New Moon Rising?
The inspiration to create New moon Rising came from an unexpected series of events.
This year had started off as it were on the wrong foot. I witnessed a fatal accident near my house. The shock of seeing a life wiped out in a flash shook me considerably. And then, as if on cue bad news started to stream in from everywhere. Illness, death loss and grief it seemed were all around me.
Yet, one morning I woke up to a glorious day. I remember looking out of my window and being awestruck. Yes, life was transient but it was also incredibly beautiful.
I wanted to capture that moment, that day and all my life and put it away in a little box. As a keepsake.
That led me to think of other moments captured in small verses that lay hidden somewhere.
I dug them out and decided to create a little mosaic of images and words.
I have always wanted to publish a book but had never really imagined I would. I was a travel writer you see and not a ‘real writer.’
I had found my idea for a book. I wanted to make something beautiful to remember my life by and leave something back for my daughters.
Perhaps I realised that day that I was alive now and now was the time to live and make my dreams come true.

Q.   How much time did it take to create the book? I believe you created all the artwork and images too - why did you choose to do this?
I had a vision of what I wanted my book to look like but I had no idea on how to go about creating the book. So I worked with my friend Toni Marshall who is a graphic designer and photographer. Toni understood exactly what I was trying to create and was able to translate my ideas into a reality. She took my art and poems with her photographs of some of my favourite things and put them together in this rather lovely coffee table bookIt took just under six months from the moment I conceived the book to get the printed copies in my hand. But I worked on it with 24/7. There was a certain urgency because I guess I could not put my trust in the future.

Q.   I particularly loved the section Shadows. Do you have any favourites within the book? And why?
I very fond of the Shadows sections as well. I have always felt a certain affinity to moon and those were my very first poems. But I don’t have a favourite section just some favourite verses scattered across sections.

Q.   Creating a whole book from scratch is an inspiring concept. Were there any significant problems you encountered in producing the book, and how did you overcome them?
When I first thought of creating the book all I had was vague sense of what the book would feel like. I had no experience in publishing or printing. I spent days googling the pros and cons of digital and offset printing. Eventually it became clear it the kind of book I had in mind needed offset printing.
Then started the hunt for a printer. I had to find it making the book was even viable before I started working on it. I visited quite a few printing houses in London but could not afford the cost they quoted.
So I started searching online for printers in India, China and Italy. After many frustrating calls and communications I was ready to give up when I found out about Pragati Printers in India from a friend. They were supposedly the best.
I sent them an email without expecting to hear back. The smaller printers had not given me any time or attention so there was no way such a big company was going to give my small job any priority.
But within an hour the manager of their Mumbai office wrote back asking for details. When I told him what I was hoping to do he guided me through the whole process, suggested ways to do it and supported me from start to finish.
As luck would have it I found an art teacher near me who was willing to help me on the project. I had never done any art before. She taught me how to use different mediums and express my self. For four months my kitchen had turned into studio and I painted endlessly.
A print designer friend then helped me put it all together into print friendly PDFs and sent it off to the printers. Within 10 days the books were in my hallway!
I was so nervous when I opened the first carton. Not sure if it would live up to my expectations. I was stunned.
The printers had done a brilliant job. I couldn’t thank them enough.
But it was the service that gave me the confidence to go ahead in the first place and of course they much cheaper than anyone in London.
I was lucky. I had a great team.

Q.   Can you tell us about your next writing project, Anu?
Two years ago I was shortlisted in a Disney India competition for Indian writers. We had to pitch an idea for a series of books with a first chapter. Mine was a story based on an ancient myth but set in the future. It didn’t win but being amongst the top three out of 700 plus entries makes me think I ought to pursue.
Except I have never written a book before. The word count scares me. As does every other aspect of it.
So to break in gently I have just started plotting my very first Mills and Boons book for Mills and Boons India. It’s a smaller word count to start with!

You can find copies of Anu’s beautiful book at Amazon and they are also available at Waterstones in Putney and the Barnes Book Shop.

Anu also has an interesting and informative website on Hinduism here (she's in process of moving the site from here).

Thank you, Anu, for popping by today. Good luck with ‘New Moon Rising’ and with the Mills and Boon book, please let us know how you get on! Maybe you should also revisit the children's book too.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

August round up

As the temperate plummets it feels like autumn is preparing us for cooler times to come. The Indoor Writer is on daily alert for spider removal (Handsome Hubby keeps dropping the darlings when they start sprinting - some of them are HUGE!) and making the most of any sunshine by working in the garden. Before we settle indoors to hibernate ...

Here are the stats for August:

Write 1 Sub 1:
New - 2 x short stories, 1 x filler, 1 x reader's letter
Total subs - 11 (including 1 x short play and an application for apprenticeship scheme with The Word Factory)

Income: 3rd Prize in Northampton Writers' Group Flash Fiction comp (£15!). Won FREE annual subscription to Writers' Forum (worth >£30)

The Good News: 
3rd Prize and Highly Commended in Northampton Writers' Group Flash Fiction Comp. 2 fillers published in Writers' Forum. Letter published in WOTV. Shortlisted in GKBCinc Crime short story comp (final result out end Sep). Shortlisted in another short story comp (still being judged anonymously so can't mention name).

The Not-so-good News: unsuccessful in the following ...
Words With Jam novel opening, Little Pieces of Gold (10min play), Almond Press dystopian short story. Have to assume not a winner in Lightship Flash or Short Story comps as the prize giving ceremony is on 9th Sept and I've not received my invitation...

Other projects:
Have been listening to R4 Afternoon Drama (whilst gardening) and researched radio play formats from BBC Writers Room. Now working on converting an existing short story into a radio play.

Heard about an opportunity to submit comedy sketches for a new show on R4. 2525 is being produced by Matt Lucas (Little Britain) and John Stanley Productions, which starts recording shortly. The deadline for submission of sketches (up to 5) is 13 September. Over the last two weeks I've been writing comedy sketches and finally submitted my chosen 5. Don't care what happens next because the writing was so enjoyable I'd do it all over again. At least I made the proofreader laugh!

What have you been up to? Any successes to shout about? Please share.

Keep writing and submitting...

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Why do you write?

Do you ever ask yourself why? Why do you write? For some it's about earning an income (or should that be 'trying' to earn an income?), for others it's the pure pleasure of seeing their work in print and many write simply to please themselves. And if you can't please yourself then why bother?

Handsome Hubby is the Indoor Writer's trusted proofreader. As a research engineer his logical approach and attention to detail makes him ideal to pick up the howlers she leaves for him to find (all deliberate of course ...). Rarely does he comment on content and she's learned not to ask for feedback. If he adds any remark after reading then usually this is a good omen ie 'that made me laugh', or 'I liked that one' descend like rainy blessings after a drought. If a story is remarked on it tends to be successful (often first time out) - so he's a good benchmark. Last week he proofread a new short story and returned it quickly, with very few findings. Nothing was said. Several hours later he turned to the Indoor Writer and whispered: 'I think that was the best story you've written. It was simply wonderful.'

Enough said.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

A novel fear (or confessions of a short story writer trying to become a novelist)

Today I'm handing the blog over to The Indoor Writer as she wants to make a confession ...

In the last few weeks I've been suffering from an odd form or writing procrastination. Most writers commonly seek out any task (housework, gardening, shopping etc) to avoid writing, but I've been writing just about anything (short stories, fillers, letters, articles etc) to avoid ... working on the novel. Why? Because it terrifies me. And I can't fully explain why. I've completed one adult novel and a children's novel - so I know I can finish a longer piece of writing. I do feel under some pressure, from friends mainly, but also the writing world in general that I'm not really a writer until I get a novel published. But I think I'm scared of the commitment in time it will take to complete the first draft (not to mention editing, re-writes etc), when I could be writing other stuff that has a chance to be published.

The first novel I wrote in one year (2006-2007) when I was still working full-time and it was purely an exercise in proving I could write 80,000 words. Many of the words were okay, not bad in fact, but I've learned so much about the craft since then that I know little of the work is worth salvaging (ie it needs a complete rewrite). In 2011 I wrote a children's novel for 9 -12 yrs. Recently, this did well in the Cornerstones Wowfactor competition and I subsequently paid for a full manuscript review. The feedback was extremely positive and constructive, but before I can start submitting this again it does need a significant plot change. I'm currently letting ideas stir around in the back of my brain before restarting again.

The current WIP reached 50,000 words and then stalled, but I've recently begun writing it from scratch again. To kickstart this process I wrote several short stories around major characters. I really enjoyed this and realised that for some chapters I now have sections already completed. I also realised that I did enjoy spending time with these characters and they were easy to write. (I could go all writerly  and say they were 'speaking' to me but that sounds as if I need treatment). A further goal was to submit a synopsis and the first 3 chapters for a 1:1 review at Swanwick Summer School. I'm ashamed to admit that I sat down and completed this within 2 weeks, submitted then waited until the 1:1 meeting. In some ways this was a test. If the feedback was bad then I was prepared to abandon it before investing any more time. Wonderfully, the feedback was very positive, in fact I hardly received any negative comments at all, which was surprising for an early first draft.

When all the writing omens are good then why can't I get on with it? The 2 weeks in which I wrote the first 6,000 words were brilliant in that the words flowed, the characters did speak to me and the structure began to emerge. But I slept badly l as I couldn't shut down at the end of the day. And I was sitting in bed writing before breakfast. What's wrong with that you cry? Isn't that what novelists are supposed to do? What scares me is having to sustain this obsession for six months - as I've set the target to complete first draft by end Feb 2014 - when I have other writing goals I want to focus on as well. The joys of writing short fiction are: the craving is quickly satisfied, you can flit between genres and experiment with each new story, and a piece is ready to submit within days. Working on a full length novel (Contemporary literary fiction is my chosen genre - eeek) fails on all these points.

I am going to write Chapter 4 in September (see I've written that down now so it HAS to happen) and get the first 10,000 words ready to submit to Exeter Writer's Novel Opening Competition (closes 31 October). I'm trying to break the novel down, as if I were writing a series of short stories because I can write 1-2 a month easily. It's plotted and I'm reasonably certain I know where it's heading. But if anyone out there in blogland has any helpful hints or wise words on how to balance different writing tasks, stay (reasonably) sane and a pleasure to live with then PLEASE SHARE!

Good. Now I've got that off my chest I feel much better. Thanks LitPig.